ciao 2020. may you be a year not to be repeated.

I can’t take credit for that funny cartoon above as it is circling the Internet. But it is too perfect to ignore and just sums up this strange year we’ve survived.

Yes I thought about a week ago I had written my last post for 2020 and then things happened. I learned those who claim to be Christian and pious aren’t always pleasant on social media. And while I really appreciate the pastoral leadership at Covenant Presbyterian Church sending me an email to acknowledge my concerns, well, some of us discovered that we got word for word as in yes verbatim the same email. That made me a little disappointed in them, but it also made me realize that they just don’t get it (or don’t want to.) I still hope they abandon the fakakta idea for a 12 foot high LED sign in front of a historically charming church on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer. (And isn’t fakata just the most perfect word to describe so many things in 2020?)

And if we’re going to talk about giant electronics signs that look like movie screens and giant TVs come to life, it is worth remarking that West Whiteland has a planning commission meeting next week where yet another one of these giant digital billboards is being proposed. Yes, January 5th. And I predict much like East Whiteland and their “settlement agreement” which will face East Whiteland with a Sophie’s choice of where to put signs residents don’t want. And then there is Upper Merion Township. They have their own giant digital billboards issues. Same billboard company and same solicitor as East Whiteland. There is still a petition circling for them if you agree with all of the residents who don’t want zoning changed in parks to accommodate billboards. And in West Whiteland what is with the other billboard related LLC very close by to the one being discussed January 5th?

Other things on the hit parade of 2020 include another year of unending issues with the pipelines. Energy Transfer, Sunoco Logistics, pick a name they spent another year making a mess, putting residents at risk. One of my late fall favorites? Was seeing photos on social media of workers’ trucks parked in fire lanes at local shopping centers like they were big important people that couldn’t park in a spot, and what’s up with that FU to the community?

As we head into 2021 there is a story out of Lower Merion that no one’s talking about. It’s about that property adjacent to Stonleigh that Lower Merion School District “acquired” for playing fields after they bought the property on Montgomery Avenue (what once was the Clothier Estate) for the new school. OK so everybody knew that the County Line Road property was going to become playing fields. That’s not news at this point. But what bears pondering is exactly how many hundreds of trees is the Lower Merion School District going to take down in the end for these fields? This is a sizable property and it has heritage trees doesn’t it? It’s over 10 acres isn’t it? So that is a big chunk of property to deforest isn’t it?

Now I’ve heard neighbors over there in both Lower Merion and Radnor Township are very concerned about the trees of it all because this road straddles both municipalities in spots. Lower Merion School District’s Superintendent should give a rat’s fanny about the environment as involves the future of his students, right? One thing I have always wondered about this set of projects both for the school and the playing field is how is this going to affect skinny hilly windy County Line Road and some of the surrounding small streets near these projects? And aren’t first responders a little far away from both of these new education locations? So what does that mean in the future? Once again I reiterate how glad I am no longer on the Main Line and feel for my many friends who are still there.

Other things I won’t miss in 2020 is the conflicting ways people treat each other online in the same communities. Maybe it was because so many people were home and they spent way too much time on social media, but I think people have spent a lot of 2020 being miserable to each other in as much as others also have tried to lift each other up. I can tell you personally I am closing out 2020 feeling completely less patient with people. It is something I am going to work on for 2021, but I’m telling you right now it might be a struggle at times.

So how about the mask of it all? I am not going to get into the argument that has been almost the totality of the year of what stays open and what closes due to COVID-19 (including schools), but I am going to comment about what crap it is I think the people complain they have to wear a mask. I live an immunocompromised life. Elderly relatives live immunocompromised lives. I know so many people at this point personally and indirectly from all over the place (as in just not this area) who have gotten COVID-19 in 2020. And these were all people who were careful and wore masks.

I also think it’s crap with regard to the people who can’t keep their kids at home who then turn into super-spreaders of coronavirus at all ages and stages of life. No one has liked feeling as confined as we all have during the year 2020. No one has liked how it has affected our economy, our personal psychology, our sense of freedom. It has been a difficult year emotionally for everyone. Some people feel so isolated and alone. Even those of us who live with our families can have different times during the year where they could pinpoint feelings of loneliness and isolation.

We close the year with vaccines….finally. That will start up all the anti-vaxxers I’m sure, but I would remind them gently that this is no ordinary virus. And we have already seen in the past few years what an uptick of measles and other childhood diseases has done across the country. All I’m saying is, people please try to keep it together so we can get out of these various stages of quarantine and get back to life. It won’t be life as we once knew it as we are forever changed by 2020, but hopefully we can get there.

Another thing I will be glad to see in the rearview mirror is the ugliness of politics in the United States of America during the calendar year 2020. We have a new president to look forward to and that serial narcissistic sociopath who’s been living in the White House the past few years? I guess he’s going to be Florida’s problem isn’t he? He has continued throughout the holidays (including today) to try to make his case for anarchy and civil war while he discusses his imaginary voter fraud and “rigged elections”. Dude doesn’t get it that he was FIRED by the American people. FIRED. Here’s hoping that America’s political parties get their crap together so we don’t come this close to a dictator ever again, especially the Republican Party because they ALLOWED this to happen.

2020 was also the time of no longer tolerating racial injustice in this country and great sadness and anger as a result from coast to coast. People came together in the midst of a global pandemic over it. We should all offer up a prayer for a peaceful 2021 and meaningful resolution to some of these weighty issues. We the people as in all the people deserve as much.

2020 was a year of personal sadness for me. I said goodbye to people I really didn’t want to say goodbye to. And they didn’t lose their lives to COVID-19, but because of COVID-19 you couldn’t see anyone to say goodbye to those who were dying.

Other friends of mine faced heath crises that had to have been extra stressful every time they had to go in and out of a hospital setting. I know the two skin cancer procedures I dealt with had me holding my breath in and out and through the COVID tests before each procedure.

Now 2020 wasn’t all bad. I got to garden a lot and work on restoring my old quilts and that makes me happy. Fortunately for me I am more of a homebody than not so I have gotten through not seeing a ton of anyone at all but I do miss my friends and my family. FaceTime and Zoom just isn’t the same, but I will say I am grateful for the technology because being able to see someone when you’re catching up is a wonderful thing.

In 2020 we saw extremes all year long. Exhausting extremes at times. But hey, you know what? We are still standing. And that’s a good thing. We can do this. We can survive and get past this. We can see 2021.

For most this year, it will be a quiet New Year’s Eve. For us, pretty normal as we generally stay in. I keep seeing reality TV stars like Sonja Morgan flitting across Twitter and Instagram asking what we’re wearing for New Year’s at home. Not sequins. But I live in Chester County so I don’t think it would be sequins ever…haven’t really seen any live sequins since I moved here.

In my final reflection of 2020, I will freely admit that if we are honest with ourselves, 2020 taught us all things about ourselves and others. Some good things, some unflattering things. It’s all about human nature.

As we bid adieu to 2020 for sure it won’t be a fond, lingering goodbye. It will be an enough already move along nothing more to see here kind of goodbye.

Pope Francis said something this afternoon which has stayed with me: “We thank Good for the good things that have taken place during the pandemic, for the many people who, without making noise, have tried to make the weight of this trial more bearable.”

And for something else fun, click HERE for a lovely rendition of Auld Lang Syne from my lovely friend, Mindy Rhodes.

Wishing all of you a peaceful and happy New Year’s Eve as my 8th year writing this blog draws to a close. Cheers to 2021 and new and healthier beginnings for this country and around the world.

file under bad things could happen in upper merion?

Now I had heard billboards wanted to come to Upper Merion (township in Montgomery County adjacent to places like Lower Merion and Radnor Township in spots best known for the King of Prussia sprawl of malls) as in those giant things they call “monuments” that are on 202 in Chester County, Quakertown, attempted on Route 100 with a “farmer’s market”, and disposition unknown in East Whiteland on Route 30, and other places.

What I didn’t know in the Upper Merion situation until this morning when somebody pointed it out is that these billboards put a park at risk. Bob White Park to be precise. Who knew?

Apparently no one reads the papers because there was an article in Main Line Media News a while back:

Upper Merion supervisors delay hearing on signs
By Gary Puleo gpuleo@21st-centurymedia.com @MustangMan48 on Twitter Oct 16, 2020 Updated Oct 16, 2020 Comments

📌📝UPPER MERION — Some call them signs, some call them digital billboards.

Catalyst Experiential, the company that creates mergers of “art, architecture and advertising” calls them monuments that integrate “visual communication technology with local landmarks, infrastructure, and community experience, which encompasses the display as well as the ambient light sensor and other technology.📌📝

Whether or not Upper Merion Township will welcome the monuments in parks and underutilized parcels will not be decided until Nov. 12 when Upper Merion supervisors will again consider the concept after tabling the matter at Tuesday’s meeting….📝📌

The company was proposing installations at four locations, including Bob White Park, Betzwood Bridge, 795 W. DeKalb Pike and 216 Allendale Road.📌🎂

The proposed amendment to zoning ordinances to amend the Township’s Zoning Ordinance would permit and “encourage the innovative commercial use of certain lands within the Township” while establishing a township-wide communication platform.📝📌

The monument lease agreements would allow, among other things, a “proposed 30-year lease agreement with Croton Road Upper Merion Land Holdings, LLC for the lease of a portion of the property known as Bob White Park for the exclusive right to construct and maintain an off-premises advertising display subject to the terms and conditions outlined in said lease.”📝📌

Following a detailed presentation by Thaddeus Bartkowski, CEO of Catalyst Experiential, several residents voiced their concern about not having been informed about the hearing.📌📝

“All of these changes at Bob White Park are being made without any input from the residents,” said one resident. “None of us really knew until tonight what was going on. There’s lots of places to let us know … there’s social media. You could have shared the presentations with us. The workshop meetings used to be televised but they are no longer.📌📝

Interesting name cropped up if you click on article link and read the whole thing. Upper Merion has the same solicitor as East Whiteland Township, Chester County—Joe McGrory.

So again, I think the billboards are hideous and most locations in Upper Merion being proposed are locations already kind of hideous, but this whole plan for Bob White Park? Why has it gotten this far? Have Upper Merion officials lost their tiny minds?

So if I have this straight, billboard company wants to lease a portion of this park to erect a “monument” in a heavily wooded portion of park that faces the expressway? As in the Schyulkill Expressway? So maybe houses near the park wouldn’t have full on sign blast of light, merely an unhealthy glow potentially but that is not the real problem with this location is it? Isn’t the real horror of this location the potential RE-ZONING of park land to COMMERCIAL?

So OMG let me understand this: if Upper Merion re-zoned a public park to commercial land zoning wouldn’t that mean a park might not have legal protection if Jim Bob Shiny Bright Developer showed up down the road and tried to do something? Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ that is a dumb ass plan isn’t it?.

And apparently in return Upper Merion would get “park improvements”? Talk about sell your souls to the devil right?

So look, not my county, not my people, not my township. But fascinating in its proposed vulgarity, none the less. Upper Merion residents, I feel for you. No one likes these billboards, well except for the company who likes to build them.

is the billboard baron trying to return to lower merion for a do-over?

pizap-com15055790913921

I am stepping out of Chester County to write about something I still hate: BILLBOARDS.

I grew to truly hate billboards while living in Lower Merion Township. (You can read all the old Main Line Media News articles by hitting up their search archives.)

I received a phone call in 2008 I think it was: “How do you feel about billboards because there is an imminent threat to Bryn Mawr?” When I heard the location, I was astounded. When I heard the proposed size of the billboards, I was also dumbfounded because I was told there were to be two proposed, with sizes of approximately 672 square feet each. That’s I-95 huge on  the equivalent Main Street.

Back then one day I was sitting in a neighbor’s garden and  I thought about those billboards. You see, gardens no matter how small are one of life’s great gifts. But what if billboards became the view? Because for a few small neighborhoods on the Main Line I felt that would be just awful.

We fought those billboards for years between Lower Merion and Haverford Townships.  The billboard cases are STILL pending for Haverford Township I was told a few months ago, but I thought the issue was dead for Lower Merion Township until this afternoon when someone sent me this:

billboard groundhog day 2billboard groundhog day in lmt

It doesn’t take a bloodhound led by Sherlock Holmes to figure out sadly who appears to be back:

catalyst 3catalyst 4catalyst 5catalyst 6

Oy vey, it must be billboard groundhog day right?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When you’re talking about beautifying our communities, how are the billboards beautiful except to the guy fattening his wallet with them?

When these billboard issues are challenged it always seems as if the billboard companies think their First Amendment rights are being denied which I never get. Did our Founding Fathers help create the First Amendment so billboard-company owners could erect billboards in our communities? I believe this is an issue of public health, safety and welfare, yet here we are stuck on “need” versus “want” parading around in a constitutional-rights costume?

And can we all admit light pollution is real and digital billboards have the potential to be EXTRA distracting to drivers?

This same company has billboard nonsense still pending in Tredyffrin for Paoli where they wish to plunk their GIANT digital billboard down at 252 and Route 30 where the Okie Clockworks building is at present. My friend Pattye wrote this summer on her blog about it:

A “Community Not Divided” – The Fate of the Digital Billboard Rests With Zoning Hearing Board – Final Decision October 24
July 26, 2019

Thank you to the many residents who filled the seats of the township building or stood in the back of Keene Hall last night for the Zoning Hearing Board meeting. Thank you to the many residents who last night (and at the two previous Zoning Hearing Board meetings) eloquently delivered their message of “Just Say No” to a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.

As the last resident to speak in opposition to the digital billboard last night my words were simple, “we are not a community divided”! For eleven months, since Catalyst Outdoor Advertising first came to the township with their proposal to demolish the Clockworks building and install two large digital billboards and a reflecting pool, the community has stood in complete solidarity in its opposition. We do not want the digital billboard. Period….

So where do we go from here?  After much discussion between the Zoning Hearing Board members, its solicitor and attorneys from the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising, a timeline for legal responses from both sides was established. Much of this discussion was difficult to follow but at the end, I asked two questions for clarification; (1) when would the residents who sought ‘party status’ know if it was granted and (2) when would the Zoning Hearing Board make their final determination.

There will be a special meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board on Thursday, October 24 (presumably at 7 PM but not announced). At that meeting, the public will learn which residents receive party status and we will know the decision of the Zoning Hearing Board.

As I said last night to the members of the Zoning Hearing Board, the final decision rests with them– the township heard the public and denied the application for the digital billboard and it’s now up to them to uphold and support.  The public has spoken … this is not a community divided!

Even State Senator Andy Dinniman dislikes the idea of billboards in our communities:

But we are talking about Lower Merion again here.  I am somewhat gobsmacked that they are trying again given the last time they challenged Lower Merion Township on billboards. See article from December 2012:

State Court rejects Bryn Mawr billboard appeal
By Cheryl Allison
callison@mainlinemedianews.com

That space on a wall facing Bryn Mawr’s Five Points intersection will remain blank, following a state court’s rejection of a billboard company’s appeal of a violation order in Lower Merion Township.

On Wednesday, a three-judge Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court panel upheld an Oct. 14, 2010, decision by the township’s zoning hearing board that an 8 ½-by-34-foot vinyl-wrapped sign on a building at 762-766 Old Railroad Avenue was illegal.

AdSmart Outdoor Advertising Inc. had appealed the zoning board’s decision to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which in February affirmed the township order. The company immediately took the matter to the higher court, but in March removed the billboard while the appeal was pending…..

The court found that AdSmart had not demonstrated good faith “in failing to seek any type of zoning approval” before erecting the sign, and rejected its request for the award of costs and fees.

Citing case law, Simpson wrote, “A person who completely disregards the requirement of securing a building permit cannot acquire any vested right in the structure.”

Mind you after Superior Court, this went to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court and even THEY said no:

PA Supreme Court: Five Points Billboard Will Stay Down
The court rejected (another) appeal last week.
By Tom Sunnergren, Patch Staff
Jun 4, 2013 10:51 pm ET | Updated Jun 5, 2013 8:10 pm ET

The Five Points Intersection billboard will stay down.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Adsmart Outdoor Advertising‘s petition for an allowance of appeal, putting what looks to be an end to the longstanding controversy over the billboard that was removed last spring.

“It’s the final nail in the coffin for the Bryn Mawr billboard,” Lower Merion’s Ward 10 Commissioner Scott Zelov told his constituents in an email. “This is another victory against unwanted billboards that don’t belong in our suburban community.”

 

So OMG it IS  LITERALLY groundhog day at least in Bryn Mawr and the other location? WHY?????

Appeal No. 4473
Applicant: 766 W. Railroad Outdoor, LLC
Property: 762, 764, & 766 West Railroad Avenue, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
known as tax map parcel nos. 40-00-48496-00-1; 40-00-48500-00-6; and
40-00-48504-00-2
a.k.a. 762, 764, & 766 Old Railroad Avenue West, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(Election District #10) C 2 Commercial District

The Applicant proposes to install a billboard sign on the exposed party wall between 762 and 764 West Railroad Avenue and is challenging the substantive validity of the Zoning Ordinance, in accordance with the PA Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) sections 909.1(a)(1) & 916.1(a)(1).
The Applicant contends that the Lower Merion Township Zoning Ordinance improperly restricts the development and use of land in the Township for billboards (i.e. off-site premises signage); specifically that 1) §155-93.3 E of the Zoning Ordinance limits the placement of billboards to properties only within the Manufacturing and Industrial zoning district, along with the dimensional requirements for billboards are a) unreasonable, arbitrary, unduly restrictive, exclusionary, and
not a valid exercise of the Township’s police powers, and b) unreasonably infringe upon an affected landowner’s constitutionally protected right to freely use and enjoy the landowner’s property for a billboard, 2) the provisions of §155-93.3 E, when taken together, make it such that there is no area within the Township where a billboard sign would be permitted, 3) §155-93.3 E is illusory in that it gives the impression that billboards are permitted but takes that ability away
with the imposition of the restrictions found in its provisions, and 4) §155-93.3 E is contrary to the MPC and PA case law as to billboard signage. The Applicant also challenges the ability of the Township to require the Applicant to fund an escrow account that reimburses the Township consultants and its legal counsel to provide services in opposition to this challenge application.

The Applicant requests that the Zoning Hearing Board find that §155-93.3 E of the Zoning Ordinance is invalid.  Anyone interested in reviewing the application and plans may review this information in the Building Regulations Division at the Township Building, between 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday
through Friday. Anyone requiring special accommodations for the Meeting or the Hearing should contact this office at least three days prior to the hearing (610-645-6172 or  mwylie@lowermerion.org).

It’s that location again years later? WHY????

And who owns the building now? (I never knew back then.)   Once again, everything old is new again…sigh. I no longer live in Lower Merion, but this is craziness in my humble opinion and I had to point it out. I will also note that not only is there the billboard issue in Tredyffrin I pointed out earlier in this post, there is whatever happened to the billboard issue in West Whiteland  for Route 100 that would be next to where there was that fire recently and where does THAT stand?

Billboards are still blight upon our communities.  We have enough screen time every day as it is that we don’t need them supersized and along our roads and in our communities, do we? Yet….

Buckle up Lower Merion and get out the popcorn.

4473 – application – Validty challenge Billboard W Railroad Ave Bryn Mawr

4473 – 766 W. Railroad Outdoor, LLC 762-764-766 West Railroad Ave Bryn Mawr memo 9-19-2019

ZHB notice 9-19-2019

pizap

don’t we have enough billboards in chester county already?

I am not a billboard fan.  Never have been. I am not a West Whiteland resident, but I am a Chester County resident.  There is a video which residents in West Whiteland who got the letter were also invited to watch.

Here is the link: https://vimeo.com/212812871/8e07f2f03b

Here is property listing on LoopNet and it shows that it is off the market.

My opinion is Route 100 is such a zoo already, and this would bring the potential for additional light pollution, wouldn’t it?  And would it be a hazardous distraction on accident prone Route 100?  The video shows their farm market concept, which  by itself without the billboard I have no problem with, except to wonder about the traffic there and is there truly enough space?

The property is next to that place that looks like it is a motel, but I guess are apartments?  And what about the creek that runs right there?  And if you take out all of those trees, how will that potentially affect the residents back up behind there even if there was no billboard?

Yes, it’s an ugly site, but is this the best solution? And is the entire parcel all in West Whiteland or is part in Uwchlan maybe?

I hear neighbors are up in arms already at the proposal, and can you blame them?

I only ask reasonable questions as an observer and resident of Chester County. It will be interesting to see how his proceeds, won’t it?

ww outdoor

it still looks like a giant distracting T.V. floating above route 202

On 202 in Westtown there is a giant T.V. screen, oh I am sorry, billboard. Or is it digital advertising?  Or is it “ground-mounted electronic-display system”?   Incredibly ugly, incredibly distracting I think. I have written about this billboard a couple of times now.

I still don’t understand why it was that Westtown officials sold out over this billboard, but on our way to Dilworthtown’s Blue Pear for dinner last night as a passenger in a car on 202 I was once again struck how distracting this signage was.

It floats over 202 like a GIANT disembodied television screen.  And like a T.V. it seems to change channels.  And last night there was a giant ad called “a kidney for Aretha.”

Really?

So I googled and found an Inquirer article about this.  I mean no disrespect to this Aretha, but I did my time at billboard hearings in more than one municipality and while I want to believe this is being done for the greater good, the jaded community activist in me wonders if he is trying to repair a tarnished community image in multiple municipalities?  How many of us were picked on in a questionable manner by his legal team at meetings?  Did Bartkowski seem to care about the resident after resident from all walks of life at multiple meetings in multiple municipalities who begged for their communities?

I really,really hope this lady gets her kidney, however, I really wish officials would start keeping tabs on that billboard, especially at night.  It’s awful. And distracting.  And why is that good for any community?  I wish I could believe the King of All Billboards was merely being a good son, and altruistic, don’t you? But I was at those meetings, and so were a lot of people I know, and the dueling images just don’t quite fit.

The billboard up and back in the dark was so bright. Thank goodness it wasn’t hovering over the Blue Pear like a neon full moon.  That would have totally ruined a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Aretha Swift advertises for a kidney

June 07, 2012|Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News

HOW MANY billboard owners does it take to snag a kidney?

Ten — if one of them is an obedient son. Luckily for Aretha Swift, Thaddeus Bartkowski is a very obedient son.

A few months ago, Bartkowski’s mom was listening to KYW radio while driving and heard a story about Swift. Swift’s kidneys had failed, but no one among her family and friends was a suitable match to donate a kidney to her. So she was placed on a waiting list to receive one from a cadaver or living donor. The average wait is five years.

The KYW story was about a fundraiser that Aretha held to buy space on a billboard to advertise her need…..”My mom called and said, ‘You should contact this woman,’” says Bartkowski, 32, co-founder of Catalyst Outdoor Advertising, in Devon. “She never calls while she’s driving unless she thinks something is really important. I thought I should listen to her.”

And that’s why, as of Friday, Swift’s cause now graces 24 digital billboards in places like King of Prussia, Reading, the Jersey shore and even — ta dah — Times Square.

They show a lovely photo of Swift alongside the words, “You have two, I only need one to live.” Viewers are then directed to a website, http://www.AKidneyForAretha.com, to learn more…..”Thaddeus didn’t know me from Adam and he’s done all this,” says Swift, 52, who is separated, lives in Roslyn and has three children. “And he’s only 32! He’s so impressive!”

 

 

 

fight potential billboard blight in chester county

A blog post on the Phoenixville Patch over the past few days (they used a photo from Save Ardmore Coalition) reminds me that yes, the billboard issues that have been plaguing the Main Line, Delaware, and Montgomery County is trying to encroach on Chester County too.

And trust me, since I have been at many, many Main Line/Haverford Township billboard hearings, I can tell you it may get nasty.

The guy is Thaddeus Bartkowski.  He’s young and affectionately known to billboard activists as Mr. B.I.G. (BIG is the acronym for one of his corporate entities so it’s a play on words, not truly a reference to Sex In The City.)

Anyway, this guy thinks it is his First Amendment right to litter communities with billboards.

I have noticed Chester County has it’s fair share of billboards and do you want more?  I know people in Phoenixville are very upset at this prospect in the town.  But then again what does a Classic Town designation and a billboard have in common? The answer is not much.

Here is the recent Phoenixville Patch Blog Post:

Local Voices

Blog: Billboard Bully Strikes Again  Posted on January 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm

East Pikeland joins at least 18 other local communities targeted by Thaddeus J. Bartkowski, CEO of Chester County Outdoor, and his legal counsel, the law firm of Kaplin Stewart, in their game of corporate bullying. 

 

Those communities have said, emphatically, that they don’t want digital billboards. As a result, they’ve been subjected to appeals, litigation and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent in legal fees. 

 

Bartkowski and Kaplin’s first appeal tactic is to object to the exclusionary nature of local sign ordinances….Communities, not the billboard industry, should have the right to determine appropriate limits for billboard size, and according to a chart of standard billboard sizes, Phoenixville’s and East Pikeland’s ordinances approved sizes for free-standing signs would accommodate at least half of the industry-approved sizes of billboards.

 

Even in the case of an exclusionary ordinance, though, as Mr. Bartkowski and his legal counsel are aware, communities have the right to ban digital billboards outright if they can show that they are a detriment to local aesthetics or citizen safety.

 

A recent study by Philadelphia urban planner Jonathan Snyder demonstrates that billboards have a detrimental impact on local property value: In Philadelphia, properties purchased within 500 feet of billboards have a decrease in sale price of $30,826. For each additional billboard in a census tract, there is an average $947 drop in home value, throughout the entire census tract.

 

On the safety issue: The website of a prominent billboard company boasts that its signs are “virtually impossible to avoid.”  Another company’s website promises that “outdoor boards are unavoidable, unstoppable.”

 

Marketing blogger Andrea Atkins, in a blog post promoting Mr. Bartkowski’s Outdoor Advertising wrote: “Qhat is the No. 1 best feature of outdoor advertising?  That customers are basically prisoners; outdoor advertising is difficult to get away from … Is Victoria Secret bringing us new bras? I was staring into space during the commercial, but its hard to miss a gorgeous, half-naked model on a 50-foot digital billboard during rush hour!”

This issue of fighting billboards has been going on in Bryn Mawr  and Haverford Township for a few years now. I mean can you imagine giant, I-95 sized billboards in Bryn Mawr?  Or in Phoenixville? Why in town centers? Why not leave them on highways or better yet, not have them at all?  Why do communities need billboards and why can’t they say no?

One of the proposed Bryn Mawr Locations is across the street from a church.  Can you imagine a GIANT condom ad or say a Victoria’s Secret ad across from a church? Because I don’t believe you can dictate billboard content – whatever ad space that is sold on a billboard is ad space, correct?

At many of the hearings we were scoffed at when we said “what if one fell?” Apparently, that query is not so odd after all given recent events out of New York:

In spite of personally being singled out by the billboard guy’s attorney – apparently my First Amendment rights are  very optional – he can claim it’s his right to put them in communities, but I am not supposed to be able to say I hate the idea of billboards in communities I care about and why – I still say if you don’t want billboards in your communities you should have a say in the matter.  As a matter of fact, four states have banned billboards for years: Vermont, Hawaii, Alaska, and Maine.  In England and the UK billboards are controlled via planning and the fines for not following the rules are stiff.  And in Toronto, Canada since around 2010 they have been taxed and part of the tax collected goes towards public art and stuff like that.

Yet here, for this guy Mr. B.I.G., all communities are just supposed to roll over?  What I still don’t get is why one person seems to be on a mission to billboard SPAM  Southeastern PA? 

Haverford Township Fire Truck Extends Ladder to Show Residents How High Billboards Would Be (May 2009)

So yeah, a lot of us are real familiar with Mr. B.I.G.  and his Billboardquest.

YUCK.

Groups that are fighting billboards in this area are SCRUB and No Billboards – both groups are full of awesome people.

These blue tarps were stretched out at a Haverford Twp. Billboard Hearing So All Could See How Big The Billboards Would Be (May 2009)

On Christmas Day, the Phoenixville billboard issue made the Inquirer and was even picked up by the AP:

Posted: Sun, Dec. 25, 2011, 3:01 AM
 

Borough preps for billboard battle

Phoenixville will likely wind up in court in its fight to keep three 40-foot-wide electronic signs out of town.

By Anthony Campisi Inquirer Staff Writer

Since 2008, Thaddeus J. Bartkowski III’s billboard wars have flared in more than a dozen communities in Delaware and Montgomery counties.

Now he is moving on Phoenixville, with the first shot fired toward the Chester County borough’s historic downtown.

If Bartkowski prevails, three electronic, V-shaped billboards, 12 feet high and 40 feet wide, will go up along Nutt Road, a major thoroughfare. They will rise 43 feet above a borough that has struggled to reinvent itself, filling the void of industrial decline with quaint shops, good restaurants, and gussied-up rowhouses.

Not surprisingly, residents are in high dudgeon. The billboards, they say, would be a visual blight and a dangerous distraction for drivers.

The town is gearing up for what promises to be a long and costly fight likely to land in Chester County Court.

For the billboard purveyor with a novel strategy for placing outdoor ads, courtrooms are familiar battlegrounds.

And more on Chester Co billboard issues:

The zoning hearing board has until Feb. 27 to rule on the substantive validity challenge brought by Chester County Outdoor, LLC.

    

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two articles on Wednesday’s hearing. This one will deal with the legal aspects of the case, while the follow-up goes into the statements made by the public following the testimony.

After people came forward to offer emotional appeals to stop the process that may allow 40-foot wide, 43-foot tall electronic billboards along the Nutt Road corridor, the zoning hearing for Chester County Outdoor came to a close Wednesday evening.

 

Speakers Voice Emotional Appeals Against Potential Billboards in Phoenixville

A public comment period was held following a zoning hearing Wednesday evening.

Carol Kuniholm paced within the area of a few square blocks on the floor, her voice cracking at times as she spoke.

Though not from Phoenixville, Kuniholm has tracked the work of billboard advertising firm Chester County Outdoor and she’s part of Occupy Phoenixville. She called the opposition to three 43-foot tall electronic billboards proposed for the Nutt Road corridor a perfect example of what the Occupy movement is about, calling the bids to put billboards around southeastern Pennsylvania “corporate harassment.”

 

“You ought to be embarrassed,” Kuniholm told Patrick Wolfington, the lone employee of Chester County Outdoor on hand at Wednesday’s hearing.

 

Phoenixville Area Municipalities Brace for Billboard Challenges

Schuylkill Township will invalidate its ordinance and a validity challenge will come before East Pikeland Township on Feb. 8.

As Phoenixville Borough faces its own billboard challenge, East Pikeland Township will face one soon and Schuylkill Township is trying to protect itself from similar action.

Chester County Outdoor posed a substantive validity challenge in front of the Phoenixville Zoning Hearing Board.

 

The challenge states that the borough’s sign ordinance does not allow for freestanding offsite billboards. Several residents and business representatives spoke at a recent hearing, and a decision from the zoning board is expected by Feb. 27.

 

Anyway, if you live in Chester County and where you live doesn’t have zoning to address billboards, or has zoning with holes like the holes in swiss cheese on the books, you had better sit up and pay some mind to this issue.

Trust me, these people are like ants at the proverbial picnic.   Or mold. Take your pick.